KING DAVIDS PRAISE OF GOD
I am here, Jesus:
These sermons on the character of King David, which underline those episodes showing his essential goodness of heart in the difficult position of being leader of Israel's armies in the nation's wars against her hostile neighbors, have sought to explain why David was designated a man after God's own Heart. It was precisely for this goodness of heart, which he was able for the most part to maintain in the face of the brutal conditions which prevailed, that he was thus designated.
I am now going to refer briefly to several more instances of David's love of mercy and restraint, and then devote myself to the psalms which have come down to us under his name, for the songs he composed not only dominated the thought of those which were written by others after his time, but also helped to guide many of the others, certainly, in the aspect of thanksgiving to God, which became part of the scrolls of the Dead Sea.
First, I wish to tell you how grieved David was when Abner, General of Saul's forces, was killed by Joab, David's nephew. Abner had slain Joab's brother in the fighting between David and Saul's adherents for possession of the throne of Israel. Later, Abner sought to make peace with David as ruler but, on leaving Hebron after a conference with David, he was slain in a blood vengence slaying by Joab. The King felt this was treachery, but the customs of the time insisted upon such slayings, not only of the actual slayer, but of his kin, innocent though they might be. It was in obedience to these mores that David delivered up the seven sons of the House of Saul to the Gibeonites, as told in II Samuel, Chapter 21, and the seven innocent sons paid the price of their father's actions against these people by hanging. Rizpah's act of devotion in protecting the bones of Aiah, her father, and the other victims, touched David, and he commanded that they be given decent burial in the family sepulchre in Zelah, in the country of Benjamin.
So you see that as for Joab, nothing could be done by David against him, for the times were barbarous; but David, with higher spiritual insight, understood that this slaying of Abner was wrong, regardless of the customs of the land, and he issued a public statement proclaiming his innocence of Abner's death. He ordered mourning garb for Abner, had him buried in Hebron and personally attended the services. David, weeping at his grave, composed a dirge lamenting his death as a victim of human wickedness.
Joab, of course, was also responsible for the death of Absalom, whom, we know, David loved so tenderly, and Joab's disobedience of the King's specific orders to spare his erring son, by piercing him with darts as Absalom dangled helplessly from a tree, caused a building up of intense resentment which David could never shake off. And with Joab's slaying of Amasa, when the latter was Captain of the host of Judah (II Samuel, Chapter 20), David felt that, while he would not take vengence against Joab, his successor to the throne should rid himself of one who could cause him great troubles. And so he charged his son Solomon (whom he favored over Adonijah, to please Nathan the Prophet, and Bath-Sheba to strike Joab, and also Shimei, whose insults still rankled, when Solomom should become King. Solomon did so, not really as instructions from David, but because Joab had joined in a movement to crown Adonijah, and because little pretext was needed for the new King to eliminate one who had vilified his father as a member of a rival house.
In these final acts, David's role was surely not a creditable one, regardless of the provocations, but neither was David in his last days of illness and weakness the same person whose nobility of soul glows so radiantly in his many kindnesses to Saul, to Jonathan, to Abigail, to Absalom, indeed to that very Shimei, and to those many others whose faithfulness to him in his straitened circumstances grew out of the seeds of that kindness and mercy which he had showered upon them.
This human love thus characterized David the King in his acts, when viewed in the light of his age and exalted station in life, is perhaps better understood when supplemented by a study of his Psalms, which he wrote at various intervals in his life, dating from his days as harpist in the court of King Saul, to his experiences with his enemies from within and without Jerusalem. His principal themes, as could be expected from his life, were praise of God for His kindness and mercy, acknowledgment of his might and power in the physical universe, and his trust in God, especially when things looked black because of hostile conditions and people. I shall consider these and others as they appear. These Psalms of David, or in which David had his hand, were about seventy in number, all from Book 1, with the exception of Psalm 1, and in Book 2, those numbered between fifty and seventy-two, except 66 and 67. The others are scattered about in the other three books and I shall talk about them as well.
These Psalms of David and those added to them by Asaph, his musician, and others, became the hymn book of the Second Temple built by Solomon, and were a great source of religious inspiration to the people. In fact, the Psalter, or as the Hebrews called it, the Book of Praises, has given great help and consolation not only to Jews, but to Christians for many centuries and have inspired them to greater trust in God and faith in His mercy.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens
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